Are Hawaii Democrats Too Friendly With the Chamber?
I think it is fair to say that in no other state, county, city or jurisdiction in which Democrats comprise the legislative majority does the Chamber of Commerce have such unprecedented influence and access as they do here in the Aloha State.
There seems to be a running track record of Hawaii legislators (the vast majority of whom are Democrats) following the lead (following the direction?) of business interests generally and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii specifically.
Though the business community constantly complains about how hard it is to do business in Hawaii, they certainly aren’t having trouble having their concerns addressed at the legislature.
The Chamber is Not Looking Out for Hawaii
If it’s bad for business or, perhaps more accurately, if it’s perceived to be bad for business, the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii will oppose it.
More stringent environmental regulation in the face of climate change and see level rise? The Chamber hates it. Increased protections for workers? The Chamber questions its necessity. Increase the minimum wage to reduce poverty in Hawaii? The Chamber will tell you to do so would be the end of the world.
But they are liars. They are lying to the press. They are lying to the public. They are lying to their members and they are lying to legislators.
If stepped-up in manageable increments, increases to the minimum wage is good for workers. It’s good for the economy generally. Oh, and by the way, it’s good for businesses. But the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii will tell you how all that is false. The Chamber of Commerce Hawaii will lie right to your face, hoping to scare you just enough to oppose it.
So, how exactly are they lying? Let’s look at the facts. (Don’t tell the Chamber; they hate facts).
Increasing the Minimum Wage Doesn’t Cause Job Losses
In 2014, after a two-year battle, the Democratically-controlled Legislature finally acquiesced to increasing the state minimum wage from $7.25. On January 1 of each year following, through 2018, the minimum wage increased to its current rate of $10.10. In each year since that increase, the unemployment rate in Hawaii has dropped to historic lows.
So, despite claims of catastrophe from the Chamber of skyrocketing unemployment, it didn’t happen. Not only did the local rates drop, but they remained below the national unemployment rate. Did the Chamber with all their money and research simply get it wrong? Or did they know the likely outcome and opted for fear-mongering instead of facts? You can make up your own mind.
Increasing the Minimum Wage Doesn’t Force Business Closures
The above mentioned unemployment rate suggests there wasn’t a mad rash of business closures during the time period in which minimum wage workers were seeing more money in their paychecks.
While the State doesn’t appear to track the rate at which businesses open or close, there is at least anecdotal evidence businesses weren’t shuttering their shops left and right. In fact, from my experience, there are more small businesses, more restaurants that opened for business during the same four year period as the minimum wage increased.
Did some businesses close? Almost certainly. But there is zero evidence to suggest those closures were a direct result of minimum wage increases. Even if there were some businesses who were forced to close because of the minimum wage increase, there is no denying they were the exceptions, not the rule.
Smart Increases to the Minimum Wage Don’t Substantially Contribute to Inflation
There is no one thing that causes inflation. I’m no economist, but as I understand it, there is a complex web of market forces that contribute to increases in inflation.
When the costs for businesses go up, so too do their prices often go up. But the cost of a cheeseburger isn’t going to go up significantly. Any business who says their prices will double, or triple, is simply lying. Or they’re actually terrible managers whose businesses aren’t long for this world anyway.
I know of one little breakfast/lunch shop in downtown that posted a sign notifying customers that the increase in their prices was a direct result of the minimum wage increase. You know what? That business is still open. And thriving. So, while you may see a small increase in prices as your favorite shop, restaurant, or coffee shop, that increase isn’t likely to break your wallet. Or force the business to close.
More recently, we have heard the talking point that raising the minimum wage will “increase the cost of living” in Hawaii. This is just another way to describe inflation….
Once again, the fear tactics of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii fall flat in the face of facts and experience.
Question Democrats Who Parrot The Chamber Talking Points
Those points listed above are just a few of the issues the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii raises when railing against any increase in the minimum wage. And though there are more, others I haven’t highlighted are no more based in reality than those I touched on above.
With a bias that leans more “pro-business” than “pro-worker,” too many of Hawaii’s Democrats are accepting wholesale the Chamber’s talking points. Or, they’re hedging their bets, worried that the Chamber and the broader business community will not support them for reelection. But I’m not aware of a single elected official who has lost a reelection because they supported a raise for working people.
So, when you hear your elected official (if you’re in Hawaii, odds are they’re a Democrat), be sure you tell them to stop buying the lies the Chamber is selling. Tell them raising the minimum wage is good for you, for your family. Tell Democrats that increasing the minimum wage is good for Hawaii. Tell them to stand courageously against the Chamber of Commerce and side-by-side with the working people of Hawaii.